Article III: The Judicial Branch

Article III of the Constitution identifies the third branch of our separated government, empowering the courts to decide cases and limiting them to the exercise of a certain kind of authority. It establishes the Supreme Court of the United States, and defines the crime of treason, the only crime listed in the Constitution.

The following was prepared by the Office of the Secretary of the Senate with the assistance of the Library of Congress, providing the original text of each clause of the Constitution with an accompanying explanation of its meaning and how that meaning has changed over time. Source: U.S. Senate, Library Of Congress

Article III: The Judiciary
Article III, Section 1:  Judicial Power, Courts, Judges
Text Explanation
The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office. This clause identifies the third branch of our separated government, empowering the courts to decide cases and limiting them to the exercise of a certain kind of authority. The Constitution makes no mention of judicial review, the right of the Supreme Court to declare federal and state laws unconstitutional. The Court asserted this right in the case of Marbury v. Madison in 1803 and on more than 120 occasions since then. For the sake of independence, justices and judges are given life tenures, subject only to removal by impeachment, and a guarantee that their salaries cannot be reduced.
Article III, Section 2:   Judicial Power and Jurisdiction
Article III, Section 2, Clause 1:   Cases and Controversies; Grants of Jurisdiction
Text Explanation
The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;—to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public ministers and Consuls;—to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;—to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;—to Controversies between two or more States;—between a State and Citizens of another State;—between Citizens of different States;—between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects. The use of  “cases” and “controversies” emphasizes the nature of the judicial power. These words encompass the concepts of adversity between parties, and require that litigants must have suffered injury sufficient to invoke the power of a federal court.
Article III, Section 2, Clause 2:  Original and Appellate Jurisdiction; Exceptions and Regulations of Appellate Jurisdiction
Text Explanation
In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make. Certain cases may be brought directly to the Supreme Court without having been heard by another court. Under statute, the Supreme Court also exercises appellate review, that is the right to review the decisions of a lower federal or state court.
Article III, Section 2, Clause 3:  Trial By Jury
Text Explanation
The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed. Anyone accused of a crime has a right to a trial by jury, except in the case of impeachments. This right was further defined and strengthened by the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th amendments.
Article III, Section 3: Treason
Text Explanation
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. This clause limits Congress’ ability to define treason or to set its punishment, as a means of preventing political “offenders” from being charged as traitors. At least two witnesses must testify in court that the defendant committed a treasonable act.
The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

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